Just because I’m vegetarian doesn’t mean I don’t laugh at ‘eat all the bacon’ memes on Instagram. And I’ve often (secretly) thought that my own little tofu burgers look a bit sad next to my partners BBQs of sausages and bacon (if he is reading this, I’ll never live down that admission!) So although this morning’s headlines about the World Health Organisation report revealing that processed meats rank alongside smoking as cancer causes, should have left me feeling a little smug, it actually raised an eyebrow. It sounded a bit like another ‘food enemy’ was being created (cue fad diets avoiding carbs, gluten & fats). There is no denying the evidence, but before making judgement I decided to ask my trusted source Professor Tim Crow to weigh in on the debate.
He had this to say about the WHO report findings.
“About the WHO report, there is zero new here, but makes for a great headline for the day! The World Cancer Research Fund way back in 2007 in the largest ever report into diet and cancer already put processed meats as the only food to ‘avoid’ for its link to colorectal cancer and for red fresh meat, to limit this to 500 grams of cooked meat per week which is just marginally above what the Australian Dietary Guidelines already recommend. While processed meat was placed in the same carcinogen category as smoking, it is nowhere near as harmful as smoking! I still eat processed meats and love bacon, but I eat such things fairly rarely (1 month) so you always have to put things in context to an enjoyable lifestyle else you wouldn’t drink beer or wine either for its equivalent cancer risk!”
A recent Guardian article summed up “In any case, the WHO specifically said it was not comparing processed and red meat with smoking; they are grouped in the same classification because of the strength of the evidence that they help cause cancer, not the level of danger.”
When it comes to your diet, it’s best to opt for a common sense approach. Clearly regularly binging on processed meats is not a good idea and may have serious health risks but there is no need to panic and start clearing our your fridge just yet (but don’t tell my boyfriend that ok?) Oh and Laura may want to rethink her perfume choice… but that’s not because of the WHO report.